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The Cut of Womens Clothes 1700 to 1800 | History of Fashion Design

The Cut of Womens Clothes 1700 to 1800

a mantua c.1700
The style of Women’s garments in the 18th Century reflect the improving status of women in society.While the mantua of the early 18th Century was a rather simple limp garment composed of two lengths of fabric pinch pleated at the waist with wide soft sleeves sewn in, the mantua was gradually stiffened, decorated and expanded with hoops called panniers until, by mid/century it had been stylized into the Robe de Francaise  a doll-cake-like structure that insured that a woman took up three times as much space as a man and always presented an imposing and ultra feminine spectacle.


1744, from Fairholt
After 1760, women began to expand vertically as well, raising their hair with pads and pomade to a height that only a man on stilts could hope to emulate.

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After 1780, a fashion for Rousseauesque naturalism took over and women adopted more “natural” looking fashions which still took up a considerable amount of space, but emphasized the natural sexual characteristics of the female figure with padded busts and bottoms and riots of cascading hair.


French chic, c.1790-91
The 1790’s saw women’s dress lose its artificially supported dignity in favor of comfort and naturalism. Not to be unnoticed however, late 18th Century women transferred their emphasis from splendor to sex and discarded not only their false rumps but their underwear as well. The woman of 1800 proudly displayed the strength of her femininity with as much force as her mid-century predecessor.


France 1800

The Plates:


a mantua


Side hoops aka “panniers”


a sack-backed Robe de Francaise


An American woman’s dress of 1711 and a man’s costume of 1702-1720 from McClellan


An American woman’s dress of 1714-1727, a man’s suit of the same period, from McClellan.

Figures from McClellan1702-1725: A gentleman wearing a “Roquelaure” cloak and a fur muff c.1702-1714, a lady wearing a yellow gown of 1714-1727 (back of dress in plate above), a lady in a c. 1720 green brocade gown now housed in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the gentleman on the right is wearing the coat shown in the plate above, c. 1714-1727.


Plate from McClellan: Left to Right: A plain moiré silk gown worn in Massachusetts c. 1725, A gown made of imported Chinese silk brocade worn by the sister of the Governor of Massachusetts around 1735, a gentleman’s full dress suit of around 1740, worn with a solitaire bow tie, A green silk taffeta gown worn in Philadelphia around 1740.


American Women’s gowns shown in McClellan: Left-1752 wedding gown of a wealthy land owner’s daughter from White Marsh Pennsylvania, left center- gown worn by Mrs. Faithful Hubbard in Massachusetts in 1750, right center- A green silk taffeta gown (same as above plate) worn in Philadelphia around 1740, with different accessories and petticoat of the same period, right- the same gown as seen from the back.


A short sacque in biscut colored taffeta with hand painted fancy work of flowers and butterflies in watercolors. From McClellan


1744, from Fairholt


1750, Fairholt


1750-1760 plates from McClellan: Blue-green brocade gown, suit of uncut velvet worn by Robert Livingston of New York c. 1760, back of the Pennsylvanian wedding gown of 1752 seen above.


1760-1776 plates from McClellan: Rear view of the suit of uncut velvet worn by Robert Livingston of New York c. 1760, Back view of an American white satin wedding gown of 1760 (front view below, pattern on 18th century pattern page), Everyday costume of a young lady of 1770-1776 made of chintz, suit for an elderly American man of business worn in Germantown, PA in the 1770’s.


McClellan plates of 1760-1776: Light blue lutestring gown worn by Mrs. St. Clair,1760, Suit of dark satin worn by Robert Livingston, 1760 Wedding dress of Mrs. St. Clair, a suit of uncut velvet worn by Robert Livingston.


1770, English town people, Fairholt


1772, country people, Fairholt

Two versions of the Polonaise, seen worn at Ranelagh, 1775, from Fairholt.


a French court lady of the Queen’s Palace 1777
c1779lady c1779ladydetail



American costumes of 1778-1790 from McClellan: Suit worn at the French court in 1778 by William West of Philadelphia, gown in the French style popular during the Revolution,Suit of drab cloth lined with green silk based on a print of 1786, dress of 1790.


Quaker cape and cap, 1780
1780lady1 1780lady2

Two portraits of other members of the French Royal Family c.1780.


1786, English riding styles, from Fairholt


1789-90, Fairholt

a fashion plate of c.1790


1796 English fashions, from Fairholt

An English court dress struggles in vain to look fashionably Neo-Classical with it’s required, old fashioned hoop beneath. All the rest of Europe had discarded the hoop after 1790. From Fairholt.


Normal English dress of 1799, Fairholt.


American dress of 1790-1800 from McClellan: man in a brown broadcloth “shad-belly” coat worn by a Mr. Johnson of Germantown, PA, c. 1790, mauve crepe gown worn by Mrs. Sartori, dress of fine glazed cambric worn by Mme. Chevalier, c. 1797, man in the style of 1800, Muslin dress worn by Deborah Logan of Philadelphia, 1797.

An American pelisse with a quilted hem, c.1800


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